Two kinds of People

I have a theory that there are basically two kinds of people. Those that want freedom and those that want security.  FREEDOM

When the Israelites were taken out of Egypt, many wanted to go back. They wanted what they were used to, certain foods, certain housing, a certain routine. With freedom there is a lack of certainty. It’s a bit scary at times. The outcome is not guaranteed. But you are free to make your own decisions. You are not subject to the decisions of another.

This seems to be a choice that many will make in the upcoming election. More security, less decisions, less freedom.  More food, more healthcare, more housing, less choice, less freedom. You can’t have it all. If you want security, someone has to provide it. That someone will call the shots…not you. If you want more freedom, then you are on your own to a greater extent. The old safety net system, family, friends, church, will still be there, but not so much the State. A bit more risky, but more freedom is retained.

In the Church, there are similar choices. One can choose freedom or one can choose the security of the law.

If you are not quite comfortable with what Christ Jesus has promised for you, if that seems just a bit too much to chance without adding to it a little bit of your effort, then gravitate towards the law. The law will inform you, demand from you, everything that you need be doing to be righteous before a Holy and just God. It’s all there. Just add your performance.

If you are willing to take a chance, and trust the promises of Christ Jesus, in what He has done for you on the cross and what He has promised you in your baptism, then you don’t need the law to prove how righteous you are. Someone (Christ Jesus) has already declared you to be free and righteous already…just because.  Just because He said so.

Is it easy to be free? No it’s not. There are responsibilities, there is accountability. And we often fail. The difference is that in society..we pay a price for that failure. With faith in Jesus…He has already paid the price for our failure. He forgives us our sins.

For me, since I have tasted the true freedom that Christ Jesus has won for me, there will never be any going back to the security of the law…to what ‘I do’.  Never.  Oh, I might be tempted to. The old Adam in me (the State…the state of sinfulness!) wants me to go back to Egypt (the law) everyday! The old Adam is constantly telling me that Christ Jesus couldn’t possibly forgive me all my sins. I must get busy and show God just how serious I am about this righteousness project.

The fact of the matter is that I am not serious about showing God how much I love Him, or how much I can be faithful to Him. The fact of the matter is that I don’t want Him (very much). The fact of the matter is that He knows this and that He has done something about it… in the person of His Son, Christ Jesus.

So, I’ll take the freedom that Christ Jesus has won for me, and I’ll leave the trip back to Egypt (the law) for those that ‘can’t handle the truth’ ( please don’t try and force me to go back with you ). And I’ll pray that someday the law will finish it’s job and kill the slave to sin, that out of the sweet, forgiving sound of the gospel, the new man or woman might be born anew to a life of trust and freedom…in our Lord Christ Jesus.

Vote for whom you will. But never give up the freedom won for you on the cross and promised you in your baptism.

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50 years and counting

We have been graced by another Reformation Weekend. Over 500 years of celibrating the firestorm which was, and in some cases still is, the Reformation. Thanks be to God for Martin Luther and the other Reformers of the Church, who’s courageous stand changed the course of much of the Church, and changed the course of countless lives along the way.

Also, this weekend marked 50 years of ministry and mission for the congregation of which I am a member, Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, CA.

 We marked this great milestone with a wonderful pipe organ concert on Saturday evening,  given by the gentleman who donated the organ to us, Dr. Wilbur Melbye of Pasadena, California, followed by a fabulous dinner put on by the Davis and Gratzinger families, members of  LCM.  The dinner was followed by a slide presentation narrated by our current pastor, Pastor Mark Anderson, and our congregation President, Louise Saywer. There were many great old photos from the early days. A terrific reminder of the work that has gone on before us by others in the stream of faith.

Retired pastors Doug Wessell and Robert Collick spoke to us to share some memories of the time they were the pastors here at LCM, and encouraged us to continue our mission here in service to our Lord Jesus Christ, and the community.

On Sunday we gathered for worship and Holy Communion accompanied by the choir and pipe organ music played by Music Director and pianist/organist Tanya Khurgel. The sermon was given by our special guest and recently retired professor and author James Nestingen. Professor Nestingen reminded us that it is not the knowledge of the truth that sets us free, but rather the Truth itself (Himself) who sets us free.

After fellowship and indulging in some terrific leftovers (from last nights spectacular dinner), we gathered back in the sacntuary for Prof. Nestingen’s class on the petition in the Lord’s Prayer,  “Lord forgive us,  as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”  We learned that to be free from our sin and the sins of others, the Lord would have us give them to Himself, both our own sins and the sins of others against ourselves, and as often as necessary. Over the course of time, because Christ Jesus is at work, those sins that are caustic and keep us stuck in the past become less and less a millstone around our necks, and we are once again free to live. It was a terrific class with a great question and answer session. Our great thanks and appreciation go out to Prof. Nestingen for once again making the long trip South to be with us and to encourage us in the faith of Christ Jesus, our Lord.   Thanks Jim!

50 years…500 years…a drop in the bucket in the course of human history and a speck in the universe and span of God’s eternal Kingdom. But the Lord does a great work in these small moments. His mighty work is always accomplished for that which He intends.    

May He continue to bless our congregation and every congregation where His name sounded as the Name above all names, and the one Name by which men and women are brought to a living faith in the Savior of the World, our Lord and our Savior, Jesus the Christ!

No political Gospels!

There is no real, lasting peace to be found in any man or woman that heads up or speaks for any political party.

There is no getting closer to Heaven on earth depending on which political party w ins.

There is no place in the pulpit for espousing political ideologies.

The pulpit is reserverd for proclaiming God’s Word.

The gospel is far too important for it to share time, or be replaced by temporal quick fixes… which ultimately end in death anyway.

Someone in the pews may never have another chance to hear the gospel.

Have your political party. Express your political ideology. Convince others and work towards what you think is right… just don’t do it, or expect your pastor to do it from the pulpit. The pulpit is reserved for something far more important.

“You are going to hell.”

Have you ever heard that one? Chances are you have. Maybe not put exactly like that, but more than likely you have been told by some ‘well meaning’ person something similar. Who knows, you may even have told someone that yourself.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one gets to the Father but by me.”

Did He say that if you don’t believe in Him then you will go to hell? Many think that. But He did not say that. He said that He will be the one to decide. He will make the choice. It all depends on Jesus.

There are many “true churches” here on earth. There is the Roman Catholic Church. There are the Mormons. There are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are the Seventh Day Adventists. So on and so forth. And of course, even within churches that don’t officially believe that they are the only way, there are people that do believe that if you don’t believe just as they do then you don’t stand a snowballs chance of going to Heaven.

Do you smell a hint of self-righteousness in all of this? I have been guilty of this same attitude from time to time. It’s natural. 

But I think we ought remember Jesus’ words, “Don’t judge others lest you be judged by the same standard.” 

None of us deserves to be saved from the fires of damnation. Not a one.

I pray that Jesus will be merciful to the undeserving and those that do not know Him. I pray that He will send forth His people into the paths of those that have not heard of the great things He has accomplished for them, and that He will fill the poor words of His people wih the power of His Holy Spirit that the unbelieving, by His grace alone, might believe.

For those of you that believe you belong to the only true church, I hope you understand that by excluding and judging others, you are just heaping more judgement upon yourself.

No Next Level Attained

Well, yesterday has come and gone. My wife and I went to worship the Lord Jesus and receive from Him (as my Pastor likes to say) “what the world could never buy…forgiveness of sins, life,  and salvation.”

We sang hymns, we confessed our sins, we received absolution, partook of the Lord’s Supper,  confessed our faith publicly in the Apostle’s Creed and recited the Lord’s Prayer together. We prayed for the world and the Church. The sermon laid us bare for putting faith in anything less than the Living God, such as political parties (or the princes of this world), and clothed us again in the White Robe of Jesus with His death and forgiveness of our foolishness. We learned, once again, that we ought render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we learned that God has His hand in all of it…including what Caesar does. We learned (once again) that the Triune God is actively and intimately involved in not only the goings on of this world, but in every moment of every day in our own lives.

No next levels of spirituality were attained (at least that I know of). No secrets to more Godly living were revealed. No “breakthroughs” were sited. Just the unmitigated love of Jesus Christ in His Word and sacrament for sinners…that’s all. That’s enough.

Thanks be to God that He is enough.

Internet Prayers

I just received another one of those “I named it and claimed it, now if you name it and claim it and send this to 8 people within 8 minutes you’ll receive 8 blessings”, type of internet prayers, this morning.

It’s tempting to pass this stuff along. We don’t want to o ffend the one that sent it to us, and there is something inside us that thinks this stuff could really be true, and who are we to break the chain…so on and so forth.

Well, I’ve got some news for you regarging these boilerplate prayers complete with fluttering angel’s wings, and clouds, and portraits of Jesus…they are probably more pagan than they are Christian. They are wrought with more superstition than faith. They are loaded with quid pro quo, ‘if you’ then ‘God will’.

What do I do when I receive one of these “internet prayers” from a friend or loved one? Well, I pass it along to the prescibed number of people and then wait for my blessing. Just kidding. I usually send back a note telling the sender that I don’t think God is too pleased with that sort of activity and that it actually works against faith in Jesus. I have actually been thanked for this on occassion, but more often I imagine my friend or relative to be thinking that I am some sort of “religious crank” that just wants to spoil their fun and show my superior knowledge on “spiritual matters”.

How do you handle it when you get one of these prayers from a well-meaning sender?

Rough Times Ahead

The time is coming when it will be illegal to mention Jesus Christ as the only way to Heaven.

 The time is coming when ‘government’ will be the sole regulator of our churches. Everything said and done within and without the confines of the church walls will be subject to those that hate religion, and more so, Christianity.

 The “easy times” for Christians is on the way out. Our faith and faithful witness will be put to the acid test and it won’t be long now.

Stand fast. Do not let government officials stop you from speaking of Christ and Him alone as the way to salvation and true peace.

He is our Great Redeemer. He is our Great Hope. He is our Great Comforter. He is our God. He will never let us down, nor forsake us.

Jesus Christ is our Lord…period.